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Shower Tile Installation

Any shower tile installation is only as good as the craftsmanship that goes on before the tile is ever laid. There are many ways to tile a shower, and if you’re researching a shower remodel you should make sure to insist that your contractors describe their process to you before you decide on using anyone. The WAY a shower tile installation is handled will make the difference between a remodel that lasts only a few years and one that lasts a lifetime.

Vinny Pizzo Tile uses the old-world craftsmanship technique of creating a hot-mopped shower basin and a brand new lath, scratch and float with all of our clients. Yes, this process takes a bit longer, but we believe that something that is exposed to water as frequently as a shower is should be water proof. Don’t you?

To help you understand this technique, why we use it and why it’s better craftsmanship, you’re invited to follow us along as we remodel a 2nd floor bathroom. While water proofing and technique are always important (which is why we always use this process) imagine how much more important it is to avoid mold and water damage when your bathroom is directly over your dining room! Also, make sure you check out this video of a shower pan installation we were called in on that had many, many problems we needed to fix – it will help you understand just why good craftsmanship and professionalism is SO important.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 1: Demolition

During demolition we begin by protecting carpeting between the bathroom and our disposal truck with tarps to keep your house as clean as possible. Next, we carefully removing any fixtures which you aren’t going to replace so that they can be re-installed after we’re done. Then we remove all existing fixtures, shower tubs, doors, drains, tile… everything comes out.

We take your entire shower down to the wall studs. Every time. This gives us a clean canvas upon which our craftsmanship will be displayed. Yes, you will never see this, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still want it to be perfect! If you don’t go down to the studs, there’s no way you can create a fresh, clean, true to plumb surface.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 2: Plumbing Installation

Once everything is down to the studs, a master plumber installs new shower valves and a new drain system. These are newly installed to fit with your new design and the new tile thickness that will be created from adding tile.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 3: Framing

Once all the plumbing is in place, the entire shower’s new structure is framed out. This includes an optional seat and optional niche. We can also add reinforcements for handrails, even if you are not installing them yet, as we did in this situation.

By framing out the new shower structure, we are able to ensure that all walls will be true to plumb and level, allowing us to create a flat surface for even tile. Having a truly flat surface for your tile makes a huge difference in how long it lasts, how effective it is and how it looks.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 4: Water Proofing

This is the most critical part of installing a new shower – creating a waterproof shower pan that will be behind the tile grout and mortar. Vinny Pizzo Tile always uses a hot-mop system to do this because it is the only way to guarantee a truly waterproof and sealed surface.

During hot mopping, liquid tar is painted in layers with waterproof tar paper over the entire basin of the shower where water will collect. This process can be smokey, so it is always recommended to keep the house windows open and animals as far away as possible while the hot mop specialist is putting down the tar.

In addition to creating a waterproof barrier, hot mopping creates a smooth drainage ramp down to a secondary seepage port in your drain. There will always be some soaking through of the tile and grout, the shower pan is what is finally waterproof. By sloping the shower pan to the seepage port in the drain, you allow even this seepage to drain off effectively. This is essential because water that stands and collects creates mold, mildew and damage. Hot mopping prevents this.

Our clients always ask us why we don’t use a prefabricated material for this process like other contractors. While it’s true that prefabricated materials might speed up the process a slight bit, you will always have to use something to seal the joints, such as a tape or adhesive.

Make sure to see our video of a shower pan gone bad to see just how many problems one of these prefabricated materials can have, especially if installed poorly.

One thing about water is that it WILL get in wherever it can. If there’s even the slightest crack in that adhesive or the tape sealing that crack, water will seep through and collect – rotting away the beams and structure of not only your shower but your house and health as well. It’s just not worth the risk to trust your investment to anything less than the best technique.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 5: Waterproof testing (optional)

We are very confident in our hot mopping technique and have never had any problems with leaks or cracks due to craftsmanship. Some clients wish to test the technique at this point, however, before the tile goes on. This is done via an overnight water test.

During this test the pan of the shower is filled with water, it’s level is measured and the drain plugged. Then it is left to sit overnight. In the morning another measurement is taken to ensure no water has been lost.

If you wish to include this test as part of your shower installation, make sure to ask for it and be aware that it will extend your project timeline.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 6: Floating the Tile

Once the hot mopped shower pan is in place, it’s time to create a surface for laying the tile. This is another area where we insist on time tested techniques instead of the slightly quicker alternative. Like hot mopping, we insist on this because it ensures that you have a watter proof, plumb, flat surface behind your tiles. To do this we use the older technique that requires special craftsmanship skills and is called “lath, scratch and float.”

This process is very similar to the process used to waterproof the outside of your house. If you’d use it for that, which sees rain only occasionally, doesn’t it make sense to use it for your shower which sees ‘rain’ daily?

We start by building up the walls of your shower. Then we use tar paper to water proof this. Chicken wire is used to create a textured surface to hold the cement which will follow. Finally, we put on a layer of cement to create a 100% plumb and flat surface upon which the tile will hang. This surface is called the ‘scratch coat’.

Using lath, scratch and float is our technique of choice for a couple of reasons. First of all it allows us to create a waterproof, solid surface upon which to hang your tile. This cannot be done using the more common ‘backer board’ technique because you will always have joints which must be covered with tape to seal them. Again, if there’s even the smallest crack, you’ll end up with mold, mildew and damage over time. Backer board has it’s place and it’s uses, but just not in a location where waterproofing is essential.

Secondly, it allows us to make the fine adjustments required to create a truly flat surface upon which to hang your tile. We use a plumb and level to ensure that the surface, when we’re done with it, is as flat as possible to allow us to professionally lay level and even tile.

Shower Tile Installation Stage 7: Laying the Tile

After the scratch coat has dried, we can lay the tile – which we call ‘floating’ it. Grout and mortar is used to create a professional and beautiful finish to your shower, from the walls to the floor.

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